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Toy testers to the rescue

March 24, 2009 3:33:58 PM PDT
Purchasing toys can be overwhelming, with so many to choose from. And how do you find ones that entertain, as well as educate?One local company is making it easier, with qualified professionals helping determine which toys are appropriate for which kids.

It is is work and play, all in one. Welcome to ebeanstalk.com, a Connecticut-based Web site that scours the universe of children's toys, finding those that help with child development.

"The first thing that sticks in my mind is how are they going to have fun, and what are they going to learn," behavioral therapist and special educator Gopi Patel said.

Patel is one of ebeanstalk's child experts, hired to test thousands of toys and find the ones that excite, intrigue and help a child develop skills. Barbara Greenspan, ebeanstalk's occupational therapist, says some help children without them even knowing.

"Your eyes are focused, and you're really building that great eye-hand coordination which you will need in the future, for handwriting," she said.

The child experts include play suggestions with every toy shipped from ebeanstalk.com. Mom Jodi Gordon says it works. She's seen her daughter Alex improve certain skills.

"They have really, really thought-provoking puzzles with spelling that really help Alex," she said.

The company started out with 1,000 toys on site. Once the experts did their job, they've whittled it down to 200.

Plenty don't make the cut.

The experts also scrutinize a toy's recommended age, which they say can be wrong. If they rate a toy too easy for a 6-year-old, they'll age it differently, so parents don't waste their money. There's a lot of criteria, a lot of toys to test and always a key goal in mind.

"Spice things up for the little ones!" Patel said.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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